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October 2010

In Asian Treats, Pastry, Recipe on
October 15, 2010

Chinese Coconut Tart


First HSC exam today! *gasp*

Okayokay- so maybe it’s not such a big deal =) I didn’t start studying last night (for once) and so I got some sleep. Although my mum accidently turned on my electric blanket (on high might I add) in the morning when she was changing my sheets, meaning that I spent half the night being fried on my bed instead of sleeping! Don’t worry, I turned around occasionally to make sure that I seared evenly =)

But even spending half the night awake, I didn’t think any exam thoughts. It was strangely…..normal. No ‘what if’ thoughts, no ‘I’m going to fail’ or even trying to go through my essay at all. I think I’m skilfully mastering the art of blocking out bad thoughts from my head!

I can happily forget my no-so-pleasing marks that I might have gotten a few weeks ago. I can easily forget that there’s a HSC to study for- until I return to my desk and see a pile of books waiting to be studied. In fact, the only thing I really think about now is what I’m going to do after the exams- all the food I’m going to cook, all the places I’m going to eat at, all the blogging I’ll do.

I don’t want to talk much about school because this blog is mostly for happy things. Study makes me sad sad sad……..=( (*gasp* repetition! sibiliance! *puke*) But because I’ll have to go back to studying soon (and start on my essays *sigh*), I’ll keep this one short. But if you don’t see me around on this blog for a couple of weeks you’ll know why =) But knowing me, I won’t be able to resist not blogging!

And because studying is messing up my brain, I’ll go a little crazy in this post and blog about three things rather than one. Okayokay, enough about the study- onto the happier things- food!


Soda Cream Crackers from agesssssss ago

These soda cream crackers were like an impulse-bake. I saw them on Wendy’s blog one moment (recipe here)and before i knew it, I had a batch in the oven =) I made then into small shapes like I saw in the original recipe because I thought they were cute, although this made it really time consuming- especially with all the fork marks! I used thickened cream instead of whipping cream because it was what I had in the fridge, so the dough ended up a lot tougher (I was scared to add too much milk- don’t know why- it’s silly, I know) and the layers didn’t come out nearly as defined as Wendy’s. Nevermind. I’ll just have to bake these again. After the HSC.


And then there were these donut muffins.

I’ve got plans to make proper donuts sometime in the future but meanwhile, I thought I’d try these donut muffins to satisfy my (sister’s) donut cravings. They’re a lot easier to make than donuts- just mix all the ingredients together and bake!! The method looked rather much like the method of making normal muffins so I wasn’t quite sure how these would turn out….


Sure enough, they turned out having the texture of a donut (a cakey one), but wasn’t nearly as light and soft as fresh donuts. They were pretty yummy and donuty fresh out of the oven but hardened considerably the next day and became a little chewy too. I tried the sugar and cinnamon coating but it either fell off the muffins or melted onto them so I coated them in oil (instead of melted butter) and then dunked them in the cinnamon sugar muxture but that made them all oily so I used ganache for the rest of them. Chocolate seems to be able to fix everything =) I’ll post the recipe later although it’s probably not worth it….

For something a little more successful. And very very delicious =)

I’ve always wanted to make these coconut tarts- the types you get at Asian bakeries. They taste great both hot and cold, but they’re terribly hard to resist when they’ve come straight out of the oven-sorta like chinese egg tarts (not in the taste though)! Only these are a lot easier as there’s no puff pastry involved, and they’re a lot more forgiving- if you accidently leave them in the oven for too long. And because they’re coconutty, they’re bound to be a hit within our family!

I baked these in my electric oven since they were so small. I no longer like my electric oven. It doesn’t bake things evenly =(

Coconut Tart

Recipe from Angie’s Recipes– thankyou Angie!

Pastry:
180 g All-purpose flour
35 g Icing sugar
1 small Egg
10 g Custard powder
90 g Butter, chilled

Filling:
100 g Grated coconut
40 g Butter, melted
40-45 g Sugar
1 large Egg
2 tbsp Condensed milk
2 tbsp Water

1. Sift flour, icing sugar and custard powder together into a mixing bowl.

2. Rub in butter, using paddle of mixer or by hand, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in egg. Mix until the pastry begins to form large lumps. Press together gently with your fingers to form the pastry into a ball.

3. Chill pastry dough for about 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix all ingredients for the filling. Set aside.

4. Divide pastry into 10 portions (approx. 35 g each). Press pastry evenly into tart mould. Trim the edges to remove excessive dough. Prick base of each tart with a fork. Fill tarts with filling to about 90% full.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/355F – 200C/330F for 30-35 minutes until pastry is cooked thoroughly. Leave the tarts in moulds for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.

P.S Does my blog take ages to load?? Because it does on my computer- I’m not sure if it’s just me =(
EDIT: Problem fixed….I think =)

In Cake, Recipe on
October 7, 2010

Banana Crumble muffins

Our kitchen runs in a simple way- my mother is in charge of the cooking, which she does, infallibly every single day. Then there’s me with my sweet and baked goods, which I make whenever I feel like it. My father’s in charge of the drinks whenever we have a more Western style dinner- say roast or steak. And my sister’s the kitchen assitant, helping out here and there, or recreating recipes from school or other little things she might like to try.

And then there are the few dishes each one of us creates which don’t fall into our normal category- sort of like signature dishes, although not quite because they’re not that good. But these are dishes which other members of the family will rarely attempt.

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For me, these special things would be mostly my occasional dinners (like butter chicken or beef rendang) and my yorkshire puddings which I make everytime we have roast (which unfortunately, have never lasted long enough for a photo). My sister’s would be her fruit punch, a recipe from one of our first cookbooks. My father’s would be his HK style borscht or a couple of dishes he whips up whenever mum’s not at home. None of these are particularly special, and could easily be replicated by other members of the family but just never are.

One of my mum’s special little somethings is bannana bread, which, funnily enough, comes from my cookbook. She claimed banana bread as her role one afternoon, while I was at school when she made the banana bread from a recipe we’d been looking at…..together! It was an instant hit, and she’s been making it regularly ever since.

Although this doesn’t mean I’ll never make banana bread, this is the reason why most banana bread recipes, as good as they may look and sound, rarely make it to the top of my list of things to bake. And because that list is so long, I’ve never really gotten around to making banana bread =)

But, when I saw these gorgeous banana crumble muffins here, with their delicious looking crunchy crumble topping, along with the soft fluffy insides I just couldn’t help but make them =D And this was before I read on to realise that more than 5,500 other people had tried and loved the recipe too! Read more

In Asian, Dining on
October 4, 2010

Zen Oasis, Berrima

This has got to be one of the most unusual buffet restaurants I’ve been to.

For one thing, it’s situated one and a half hours away from Sydney, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Literally. All you can see around here is lots of plain, empty land. The endless flat ground, with dry yellow grass (because we’re in Australia, of course), a couple of lonely, skinny trees here and there and an occasional cow or two- just like the type you see for hours on a long drive along a highway. And to make it a little bit stranger, all the diners here don’t actually come from this area- they all come from suburban Sydney. And then there’s the name of this restaurant, Zen Oasis, which (to me) sounds nothing like a restaurant name really- perhaps a resort of some sort, but not a restaurant.

We arrive by car, slowly along the windy gravel road until we reach the end, to find plenty of other cars already parked there. Never mind that our GPS seems a little lost, with our car sitting in a middle of a big green patch on the screen, with no roads to be seen- at least we’re in the right place! The sight of the large pond draws our attention- perhaps this is the reason for the ‘oasis’ part of the name? Sitting next to the pond is what appears to be a small wooden cottage- it doesn’t take long to figure that the cottage is the restaurant.


We’re here from the recommendation given by family friends. Apparently, this place has been open for a while and is quite well known within the Cantonese-Chinese community (the same bunch you’ll see flocking Eastwood every weekend for their grocery shopping). It’s very popular too- the restaurant opens at 11:30 and we’ve only arrived a couple of minutes later but have already found the restaurant mostly full, with customers already comfortably seated and digging into their food. We are shown to our table, in a small dark corner by a waiter who notifies us of their food wastage policy before we are let loose to grab some of the food we’ve been eagerly awaiting to try.

So- what’s so great about the food that makes people travel so far just to eat it??


To me, it’s not just that the food tastes good; it’s the fact that the food is ingenious. Zen Oasis is a vegetarian restaurant, but instead of serving up plates of veggies and tofu, it serves up seemingly ordinary dishes with vegetarian foods disguised as meat. And you don’t really notice it! The meats are not only replicated in appearance and taste, they are also replicated in texture- even with fake fat within the ‘meat’!

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Fried Banana, (and I don’t know what the rest are meant to be…..)

Of course, we start with the unhealthy fried foods, which have their own table, separate from the mains. Unlike your typical RSL buffets, there were no fried chips or potato wedges to be found, but instead a more unusual selection of delicious crunchy foods.

I don’t usually like fried banana, but I make the exception to try it this time, because the black sesame seeds make it look different and yummier. And it is! It doesn’t taste quite as banana-y as most fried bananas I’ve had (which is a good thing) and the batter is deliciously crispy and crunchy. Made with a similar batter, the round fried ball thing reminds me of fish balls, with its nori wrapping making it extremely tasty.

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Spring Roll and ‘wu cee’

And of course, the beloved spring roll, which is filled with a slightly sweet veggie filling and is delicious with its crispy exterior

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Fried ‘Salmon’

Wrapped in a layer of nori, giving it a slight fishy taste, and then fried in a crispy batter, this fried salmon is one of my favourite fried foods. Biting into the crispy batter reveals the tender pink interior which tastes amazingly like salmon- and it even tears off in the exact same way cooked salmon does!

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Fried (yellow) ‘eel’

Again, nori is used to give this a little fishy flavour. The thin strips of ‘eel’ are fried until very crisp and crunchy and then covered in a slight sweet sauce. And if you’ve never had deep fried eel before, just take a look at these pictures to see the resemblance!

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Selection of fried foods

With so many crispy and crunchy foods on offer, I could happily stuff myself with just the fried foods =)

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Rice Dumplings (Zhongzi)

These cute little dumplings are so small, I could eat them in one mouthful! They must have taken forever to wrap….

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The rice dumplings are made of glutinous rice and instead of the meat filling, mushrooms and beans along with other ingredients which I’m not quite sure what they’re supposed to replicate. But they’re incredibly flavoursome and are so good, we each eat a couple of these. Luckily they have heaps of these, kept warm in layers of bamboo steamers- they really must have taken forever to wrap!

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Fried rice

Surprisingly, our favourite of all is the simplest one- fried rice. Unlike your usual chinese style fried rice with colourful veggies and egg, this fried rice is fried with shredded pieces of nori and other veggies. It tastes suprisingly tasty despite its simplicity compared to other dishes, but is so good that we keep going back for more!

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Steamed Wonton

A smooth, silky wonton wrapper envelops delicious fake prawn failling- even from the outside, you can see the pinkish interior which looks decievingly like a prawn filling!

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Vegetarian Char Siew (chinese barbecued pork)

I love how realistic the char siew looks- the shape is exactly like the real one! But even more incredible is that it tastes amazingly real, perhaps with a lesser pork taste than the usual but still has a incredibly meat-like texture. It’s slightly soft, like the real good quality char siew that you may occasionally get- the type with just the right amount of fat. Of course, there’s no real pork or pork fat in this, so we can happily wolf down a lot of these without the guilt =) Covered with a delicious char siew sauce, this is definitely one of the best char siew I’ve ever had, real or fake!

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Steamed Chinese Dumpling

I’m not quite sure which dumpling this is exactly trying to replicate (maybe it’s not really trying to replicate anything at all?) because the filling is difficult to recognise but the delicious, soft transparent dumpling wrapper tastes just like yum cha dumplings. Personally I think the skin was not as soft as I’d like it, but it was delicious all the same =)

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Sushi

The sushi is really pretty- it’s not only colourful but is made into many wonderful shapes and patterns. The sushi is made fresh, behind the table of food so that we are able to witness it being made whilst we get our food. And despite being vegetarian and full of veggies, it tastes every bit as good as it looks!

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Fruit Jelly and Mochi (glutinous rice balls)

Vegetarian desserts are not the most difficult things to make (who puts meat in desserts??)so the restaurant goes little further here, to make most of the desserts vegan.

The cute little jelly is looks simple but is surprisingly delicious and addictive with pieces of fruit studded throughout the smooth, sweet, tropical jelly.

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The mochi is another addictive dessert- a soft, chewy glutinous rice ball, covered in specks of coconut witha delicious mung bean (I think) filling. Seriously addictive =)

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Blueberry Cheesecake, Sponge Cake and something (haha…I forgot what it was =S)

The blueberry cheesecake is a little firmer than what I normally like, but tastes delicious. The spongecake is also a little dry, but with its delicious custard filling and light coconut topping, tastes so light and yummy that we don’t really mind.

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Red Bean Dessert

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Chocolate Mud Cake

The rich and dense chocolate cake is tastes heavenly, especially with its rich ganache icing. Perhaps not so popular with the adults who complain it’s too rich and sweet but the slice is small anyway!

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Mini Coconut Tarts and mini lemon meringue pie

The mini coconut tarts are really cute and taste delicious, although I prefer coconut tarts served warm rather than cold. But other than that they are an addictive treat- not too oily or sweet! I was surprised when my parents also decided to eat the lemon meringue pie because they don’t usually like meringue. But it’s so cute, it’s hard to resist!

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Looking back, I probably should have taken more photos because there was a lot more food I didn’t take photos of- but there’s always next time! Outside, there’s a small path surrounding the pond- it’s short and only takes one minute or so to complete the whole circle but does give a good opportunity for photo taking, and, more importantly, for a little exercise to help digest the food. Before the long 1.5 hour drive home. =)

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Zen Oasis Vegetarian Restaurant
Lot 2 Medway Road Berrima NSW 2577
(Berrima & Moss Vale Exit of Hume Highway)
Tel: 0404 099 285 OR 02 4877 1285

Open 11:30-1:40 Sat and Sun
$31 for adults and $16 for children

Zen Oasis on Urbanspoon